- noun the landscape or surroundings, especially when regarded as attractive
- noun the set or decorated background for a play, film or opera
- Anything placed on stage to indicate the location of the action.Scenery consists chiefly of painted flats, cloths,furniture, and props. The use of scenery is a comparativelyrecent development in the history of the theater. Greek plays wereacted against a stage wall, which the Romans turned into a grand façade,the scaenae frons; in the Middle Ages plays were staged inchurch or in the open air using the convention of multiple setting.Scenery first became important during the Renaissance, with the introductionof wings and perspective painting in the mid-15th century. In the16th century Sebastiano Serlio created three basic stagesettings that were used for nearly 300 years.
In the Elizabethan theater, location was evoked by a few props,such as a tent or throne, and by the poetry of the dramatist. Heavyscenic devices were left on stage and ignored when they were inappropriate.Inigo Jones was the first to copy the painted scenes usedon the Continent and to adopt sliding side wings. His example wasgenerally followed in the English theater after the Restoration.
In the 17th century the Bibiena family introduceddiagonal perspective scenery to the Continental baroque theaters.The 18th century was marked by a growing taste for naturalistic andhistorically accurate scenery, as in William Capon's designs for JohnPhilip Kemble's revivals of Shakespeare (1794 - 1802)at Drury Lane. In 1832 the London stage saw its first box set,with three walls and a ceiling, real furniture, and working doorsand windows.
In the early 20th century the movement against realism wasled by Gordon Craig (see Craig family), V. E. Meyerhold,and the advocates of expressionism. The vogue for nonrepresentationalstaging was introduced to America as the 'new stagecraft' by RobertEdmond Jones. In the contemporary theater scenic designsrange from the naturalistic to the abstract. One recent developmentis the advent of 'virtual' scenery, in which backdrops are filmedor generated by computer and projected onto the back of the stage.see also designer.